By: Jim Edwards
Imagine this nightmare scenario...
You check your e-mail program and it reports your username
and password as no longer valid. You call your Internet
service provider (ISP) to discuss the problem and they tell
you they turned off your account due to "abuse". "Abuse!"
you cry to the customer service operator, "What are you
"Someone used your computer this past Saturday night in an
attempt to hack into a government computer system. They
made the attempt at 1:20 a.m. from your account," replies
the rep. "Look in your windows registry for a file called
You punch a few keys and sure enough the file stares right
back at you. "What is it?" you ask, scared to know the
"Someone used a Trojan Horse virus to remotely control your
computer and cloak the identity of the hacker. Here's how
to get rid of it, just..."
What you just read happened very recently to someone I know
quite well. A computer hacker found an open port on his
computer when he switched over from a dial-up Internet
connection to an "always-on" high-speed connection.
The hacker used a robot scanning the Internet for available
"ports", openings in a computer that allow data to pass
back and forth from a network connection like the Internet.
Once the hacker found an unprotected port on my friend's
computer he simply inserted a Trojan Horse virus that rides
along with Windows Notepad, a handy utility used by just
about everyone who makes web pages.
When my friend activated the notepad program he also
activated the virus. The virus in turn transmitted all of
my friend's security information to the hacker and allowed
him to gain access and control his victim's computer in the
middle of the night.
Count me as the last person to sound paranoid, but, as
always-on connections through DSL, cable, and T-1 lines
proliferate, this story will repeat itself over and over
until people learn to protect themselves.
Most people underestimate or are completely ignorant about
the importance of information they send over the Internet
when surfing websites and checking email. Even if you only
use a simple dial-up account, you can unknowingly transmit
a significant amount of sensitive information.
You can analyze the security of your web connection for
free by going to http://www.symantec.com/SecurityCheck/ .
You can also verify the presence of any known viruses or
Trojan horses on your computer. The information I saw when
analyzing my personal computer frankly shocked me. I saw
data I didn't even know existed staring me right in the
face after I performed this analysis.
To protect your computer hardware and sensitive data you
should obtain a software package called a "firewall". A
firewall, when combined with a good anti-virus program,
helps stop unauthorized access on your computer, prevents
virus infection, and "cloaks" your data ports against a
hacker scanning for openings.
Symantec.com and McAfee.com both offer excellent personal
firewall and anti-virus software from their websites or you
can buy them off the shelf at your local office supply
store. A wise investment for anyone on the net... before
it's too late!
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About the Author
Jim Edwards writes a syndicated newspaper column in plain
language for non-technical people about current Internet
issues, challenges, news, HOT new tools... and much more!
"The Net Reporter" ==>